Port Gamble Forest

Usually, when I plan a hike, I pick the hike first, and brewery or other stops on the way home second. This weekend, I flipped that script!

My cousin recently moved to Poulsbo, which is a short ferry ride + drive from me. There’s tons of breweries out there, and I was eager to visit him and check out the scene. I decided to scope out any nearby hikes there might be, and discovered the Port Gamble forest trails, and we went to his the trails before hitting the breweries.

WTA talks about a few trails in the system, but it looked huge in actuality. Like many parks with trails, these are multi-use trails full of mountain bikers, and we saw evidence of horse use as well. The trail also offers mushroom foraging for those comfortable with identification, with rules on limits posted at the trailhead. I was worried about another Lord Hill situation, but people said there were maps and good signage, so I had high hopes for doing a loop I saw on my map. My cousin picked me up from the ferry and we headed to the trails. There are several areas to park, but I recommend typing “Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park” in your GPS, as that was the largest parking area I saw (some trailheads in the system appeared to be moreso large shoulders to pull off to, rather than parking lots). On the new maps, this is the Bay View trailhead. The trailhead had huge signs of the maps, and a QR code for an online version to have on your phone. Since I had printed a map, I assumed we were good for my planned route, heading west before turning southwards for a counter-clockwise loop.

We set out, the parking lot nearly empty on a Saturday morning. We continued onward and saw a sign for the ‘Beaver Pond’ trail, which according to my map was a short spur. Unbeknownst to us, I had printed off a super-old map and not the most recent one, so this was no small spur. We walked for a bit, seeing no sign of beavers or a pond, before reaching a fork. We guessed left, which returned us to our old main trail. We saw a map sign and I checked it with my map, aghast at how different they were. There was no loop where we were going!

The mud just kept getting thicker.

We decided to attempt to make it work, and took the next left turn we saw, for the Springs trail. There was another fork, for “Springs A,” which we opted to not take. The trail got more and more narrow and unkempt, and started splitting off into “Springs B” “Springs C” “Springs D,” none of which were on either map or GPS. The trail got incredibly muddy, with me being grateful for having a full change of clothes and shoes ready, especially during one tricky spot where the mud tried to keep my shoe as a souvenir. We were not enjoying this part at all, and decided to throw in the towel and turn back before venturing deeper into something that may or may not connect to other trails.

One of many cool bridges along the trail.

Once we got almost back to the parking lot, we took a turn, again labeled as “Springs.” This trail was wide and far less muddy. We were able to start actually moving quickly, and started seeing bikers on the trail. This part had tons of cool bridges and logs, and had lots of signs, both numbered and named. It felt like a different world than the earlier trails we had been on! We got onto the G1000 trail, which was the first that was obviously a logging road. I had hoped to get in some of the ‘Ewok’ trail, so we followed the map along, heading southward. However, we saw a sign for a trail named “Secret Squirrel,’ which I made the executive decision that we had to take based on name and signage alone.

Huge props to the signmaker!

Luckily, this choice didn’t steer us wrong. Secret Squirrel was a nice trail, narrower than the forest road but still maintained. I can see why this area is popular with mountain bikers, as there were many banked turns I bet would be fun. The trail opened up and lost the canopy at times, especially in newer growth areas. I wish we had started with this trail! After we completed Secret Squirrel, we were back on G1000, headed downhill. We started seeing more and more people, on bikes and on foot alike. Finally, we saw it–a sign for the Ewok trail! This was actually both the Ewok and Ranger trails, and when we reached another junction, we realized to take Ewok would be heading back south, and at 2.7 miles in, we were ready to be done.

Enjoying the newer growth along Secret Squirrel.

We headed back to the car, our shoes and ankles caked with mud. It’s a shame that it wasn’t until the end that I got the strongest sense of understanding the trails and my bearings. If I return, I’m either sticking with the entire Beaver Pond (which looks huge), or heading south immediately to do well-established trails like Ranger, Ewok, and ET. I would not head north unless taking the Beaver Pond trail! I’d give this park a B for signage and directions. There were tons of trails not on maps, signs, or GPS, but plenty that were incredibly clear and well-mapped. Maybe this park is a work-in-progress for the muddy Springs spurs we saw, but unless feeling like being adventurous and muddy, I’d stick to bigger trails.

In summary:

Distance: Miles and miles of trails–choose your own adventure!

Elevation: Also choose your own adventure, but trails were mostly mild in terms of elevation.

Parking: Several lots or parking areas of varying size, no permits required.

Bathrooms: There was one Honey Bucket in the Bay View trailhead parking lot.

Best Beer Bet: Depending on route taken home, Hood Canal Brewing is very close, as are several Poulsbo breweries.

3 Replies to “Port Gamble Forest”

  1. I recently went to the Port Gamble forest and I second your advice! I didn’t have time to stop at the brewery but I’ll make sure that’s part of my next journey over there!

  2. Marissa Pedersen says: Reply

    I need to explore this area more! This is on my list.

    1. Port Gamble, Kingston, and Poulsbo are great towns! I’m really excited to write about two Poulsbo breweries next week.

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